26 February 2008
You got that right, Mr Monbiot.
[Over the last couple of weeks we have seen the moon even in bright daytime - I'm talking about noon or 1pm with the sun shining. I've never seen it in the bright day before, only at night or the edges of the day. I have Ariel and her child's eyes to thank because she is the one who told me it was there. It's nice to see the moon in the light.]
George Monbiot writes in the Guardian today, arguing that the Catholic Church (these people) spreads “misery, disease and death” – by stigmatising contraception, sex education and legal/safe abortion, the real sex-negative / woman-negative brigade are contributing around the world to high levels of unprotected sex (and therefore of unwanted pregnancies and STIs) and to the horrors of unsafe/illegal abortion.
This evidence based piece is so useful I’m going to reproduce almost all of it (sorry George).
Who carries the greatest responsibility for the deaths of unborn children in this country? I accuse the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor…
Murphy-O’Connor has denounced contraception and abortion many times. That’s what he is there for: the primary purpose of most religions is to control women. But while we may disagree with his position, we seldom question either its consistency or its results. It’s time we started.
The most effective means of preventing the deaths of unborn children is to promote contraception.
In the history of most countries that acquire access to modern medical technology, there is a period in which rates of contraception and abortion rise simultaneously. Christian fundamentalists suggest the trends are related, and attribute them to what the Pope calls “a secularist and relativist mentality”. In fact it’s a sign of demographic transition. As societies become more prosperous and women acquire better opportunities, they seek smaller families. In the early years of transition, contraceptives are often hard to obtain and poorly understood, so women will also use abortion to limit the number of children. But, as a study published in the journal International Family Planning Perspectives shows, once the birth rate stabilises, contraceptive use continues to increase and the abortion rate falls. In this case one trend causes the other: “Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence.” The rate of abortion falls once 80% of the population is using effective contraception.
A study published in the Lancet shows that between 1995 and 2003, the global rate of induced abortions fell from 35 per 1,000 women each year to 29. This period coincides with the rise of the “globalised secular culture” the Pope laments. When the figures are broken down, it becomes clear that, apart from the former Soviet Union, abortion is highest in conservative and religious societies. In largely secular western Europe, the average rate is 12 abortions per 1,000 women. In the more religious southern European countries, the average rate is 18. In the US, where church attendance is still higher, there are 23 abortions for every 1,000 women, the highest level in the rich world. In central and South America, where the Catholic church holds greatest sway, the rates are 25 and 33 respectively. In the very conservative societies of east Africa, it’s 39. One abnormal outlier is the UK: our rate is six points higher than that of our western European neighbours.
I am not suggesting a sole causal relationship: the figures also reflect changing demographies. But it’s clear that religious conviction does little to reduce abortion and plenty to increase it. The highest rates of all – 44 per 1,000 – occur in the former Soviet Union: under communism, contraceptives were almost impossible to obtain. But, thanks to better access to contraception, this is also where the decline is fastest: in 1995 the rate was twice as high. There has been a small rise in abortion in western Europe, attributed by the Guttmacher Institute in the US to “immigration of people with low levels of contraceptive awareness”. The explanation, in other words, is consistent: more contraception means less abortion.
There is also a clear relationship between sex education and falling rates of unintended pregnancy. A report by the United Nations agency Unicef notes that in the Netherlands, which has the world’s lowest abortion rate, a sharp reduction in unwanted teenage pregnancies was caused by “the combination of a relatively inclusive society with more open attitudes towards sex and sex education, including contraception”. By contrast, in the US and UK, which have the developed world’s highest teenage pregnancy rates, “contraceptive advice and services may be formally available, but in a ‘closed’ atmosphere of embarrassment and secrecy”.
A paper published by the British Medical Journal assessed four programmes seeking to persuade teenagers in the UK to abstain from sex. It found that they “were associated with an increase in the number of pregnancies among partners of young male participants”. This shouldn’t be surprising. Teenagers will have sex whatever grown-ups say, and the least familiar with contraception are the most likely to become pregnant. The more effectively religious leaders and conservative papers anathemise contraception, sex education and premarital sex, the higher abortion rates will go. The cardinal helps sustain our appalling level of unwanted pregnancies.
But the suffering his church causes in the rich nations doesn’t compare to the misery inflicted on the poor. Chillingly, as the Lancet paper shows, there is no relationship between the legality and the incidence of abortion. Women with no access to contraceptives will try to terminate unwanted pregnancies. A World Health Organisation report shows that almost half the world’s abortions are unauthorised and unsafe. In East Africa and Latin America, where religious conservatives ensure that terminations remain illegal, they account for almost all abortions. Methods include drinking turpentine or bleach, shoving sticks or coathangers into the uterus, and pummelling the abdomen, which often causes the uterus to burst, killing the patient. The WHO estimates that between 65,000 and 70,000 women die as a result of illegal abortions every year, while 5 million suffer severe complications. These effects, the organisation says, “are the visible consequences of restrictive legal codes”…
And that’s the end of Maia Does The News :)
26 February 2008
Posted by Maia under Violence
Janice Turner, writing for the Times, argues that men must stop using prostitutes.
Even a single mother who was merely guilty of feeding her children cheap protein can be harangued on national television by an Eton-educated chef for supporting the abuse of domestic fowl. Crack-smoking hookers with their raddled complexions, tarty clobber and children in care are not as heart-breakingly cutesy as baby piggies peeping through crates, drowning polar bears, or even chickens. But surely we can find an ethical champion in the wake of the Ipswich murders to tell men not to spend their money on prostitutes?…
Punters have doubled in a decade: now one in ten British men has visited a prostitute. And really why not, when even glossier men’s magazines give the message that vice is nice, advise how stag weekenders can buy firm young booty in Tallinn or Budapest, when lap-dancing clubs are mainstream fun – from “private dance” to upstairs shag being a blurry line – when omnipresent internet porn feeds a sense of male entitlement to every unfettered whim. Now the sex trade has rebranded itself a wing of the leisure industry, moral disapproval has evaporated and men can concentrate on getting value for money with websites like punternet.com on hand to assist…
[W]e are told by those (mostly men) who fear a Swedish-style criminalisation of punters, that there are many prostitutes, neither coerced nor addicted, who relish their chosen profession. “Happy hookers”: that hoary old male fantasy of women who get pleasure, even multi-orgasmic joy if you believe the deluded fools on punternet, from being paid for sex is periodically fed by fictional callgirls, most recently Billie Piper in Belle de Jour, with her classy clients and La Perla undies.
But this horny imagining clashes with the reality of a trade that 89 per cent dream of escaping. And indeed schemes to assist prostitutes getting off the game – and the drugs – have many takers…
But men who use prostitutes need the happy hooker. Those with a semblance of a conscience seek reassurance that buying their jollies is hurting no one. The happy hooker, like the happy chicken, can be consumed without guilt…
While the Government is right to evaluate further whether the Swedish model leads to a true reduction of prostitution, or whether it is driven into deeper, more dangerous, places, one thing is certainly true: criminalising the buying of sex at least states categorically that it is not normal or acceptable, but, since it is incompatible with human dignity, morally wrong. And that is what we need to tell our young men but never do. Why are we hand-wringing moral relativists about women but not chickens? Why, at the very least, are punters not branded the most unethical consumers of all?
Yep. Just keep your gagging goggles on for the comments.
PS – Yes, that’s a frog on a hat. Cute isn’t she? Tarty-clobbered crack-smoking hooker (complete with raddled complexion and child in care) to follow? Does anyone have a pattern?
24 February 2008
As a woman who has been married and who has a child to show for it, I am usually assumed to be heterosexual.
As a fully satisfied celibate woman who has no intention of getting into a relationship with anybody any time soon – and certainly not a man – I generally permit that assumption: it is habitual, comfortable; it is not (overtly or immediately) detrimental; it is easy just to let it be. And why question if it makes no difference anyway?
This is why, when listing my privileges (the ones of which I am conscious, I mean), I have fallen into the habit of describing myself as “more or less” or “pretty much” heterosexual. What I mean by that is that all of my sexual relationships and 98% of my sexual adventures have been with men. What I mean is also that I have experienced het privilege all my life, because I have always performed, and always been read as, a heterosexual woman. What I also mean is that even if this has not been exactly contrary to my natural inclinations, certainly it has not involved the full expression or development of my natural inclinations.
If I were in a free universe I would almost certainly not identify as heterosexual.
It’s difficult to know how I would identify. Based on my life story to date, I would identify as a woman-loving celibate. But the only reason I have that life story, the only reason that I have come to be a woman-loving celibate is because I do not live and have never lived in a free universe. So who knows? In that mythical free universe I might identify or not as anything I pleased, whenever I pleased, and who knows what would please me if I had not had this heterosexual indoctrination?… But stop! I don’t want to get side-tracked by imagining how things might have turned out different in some parallel but fundamentally freer universe. What a waste of time. ;)
I am not in a free universe, but I am free in some places. In my real-life heart I am free, and in my real-life heart I can and now do identify myself, to myself, as a woman-loving celibate. That’s a start.
In the real world outside my own body, I am not free and as such I am… a single woman presumed heterosexual who is troubled by all that this means. Because I don’t actively sleep with women, I am claimed almost against my will by the heterosexual in-group, the ones who don’t even realise that they are a group, the ones who generously assume that you are “normal” just like them unless and until you start putting evidence right in their faces that in fact you are a deviant.
I can’t abandon heterosexual privilege, because short of wearing a sign on my head that says “I AM A LESBIAN”, there is no way to prevent heterosexual people from lazily assuming that I am One Of Them. In truth, “can’t” may be an excuse for “won’t”. Although I wish that there was no such thing as het privilege in the first place, now that I have it, I can’t honestly stand up and claim that I even particularly want to abandon it in favour of the oppression that would replace it. I don’t know what abandoning the privilege would mean, what it would look like, how it would play out in my life, whether anyone would even take me seriously, and in any case – what would be the point?
I have heard a lot at various times about political lesbians and in all honesty I can’t see any appeal in that “identity”. It sounds too much to me like privileged straight women, purposefully single, magnanimously extending sisterhood to real lesbians, garnering feminist credibility for pretending to abandon their heterosexual privilege, without actually examining or understanding the very real differences in their experiences of privilege and oppression. Without try to see how it all works in real life, how it might feel as a real lesbian to be “offered” sisterhood (read, to be claimed in sisterhood) by a bunch of privileged singletons who think they have some sort of clue what it is like to actually live as a woman-partnered woman. I wonder how many of those singletons would be willing to walk around with an “I AM A LESBIAN” sign on their heads?
Where does that leave me? I’m pretty much back to square one, except for this:
At least in the places where I am free, I will stop aligning myself with men by referring to myself (even with qualifiers) as heterosexual. Instead, when called upon or otherwise moved to identify myself, I will identify as a woman-loving celibate. This plays well in my heart, much better, much more aligned with my own self than the labels that I have hitherto felt forced to apply to my lived reality.
In the context of acknowledging privilege, I will not pretend that I do not have heterosexual privilege because that would be inaccurate. That would be denial. But I will prefer to express it as something like “closet privilege” rather than het privilege. Because “closet privilege”, although it sounds kind of lame and evasive, also expresses well how this privilege feels to me. It feels like a privilege that stifles, that forces me to pretend to be someone I am not in order to be accepted by those around me.
I have more to say on this, about how it fits in with my growing consciousness of race privilege, my thinking about the privilege of lightness as being of a kind, in some ways, with closet privilege. The two separate ideas connecting, banging together, exploding into brightness that hurts and cleans at the same time.
In the meantime, I just wanted to link this post of Dark Daughta’s and the Marilyn Frye piece Dark Daughta refers to, which have both been a part of the analysis I have brought to this post and to the one I will write soon on lightness.
23 February 2008
Eggs are shaped the way to keep them safe in case of being laid on a cliff, ledge or other high place. It’s so they can’t roll in a straight line, so they can’t roll off the cliff and get splatted. If they roll, they will just go around in a small circle.
Another question I have recently managed to answer is: how do you address a business letter in a professional manner that avoids the throwback conventional formulation of “Dear Sirs” as though no company or firm could ever contain one, some or even all female members (as is the case with at least one firm that I have in the past addressed as “Dear Sirs”).
Answer: you just put: “Dear [firm name]“. As in “Dear Pinsent Masons” or “Dear Leaky Plumbing Group” or whatever.
On a related point, while we are engaged in questions and answers, how do you address a formal letter to a woman when you do not know her preferred title? Most of the usually touted options are likely to be annoying to at least some recipients, so personally I just stick to using the person’s full name. As in “Dear Andrea Dworkin”.
And how to respond effectively when someone addresses you in an irritating way?
The trouble is, because most people don’t think how they address you is important, they tend not to take too much effort over it and they think you are petty if you correct any errors. Yet how is it petty to want someone to use your own name instead of deciding for themselves what they will call you?
Anyway, the irritation factor is so huge that I have resolved just to say it, regardless of whose feathers I may ruffle. The trouble is that in my job I have to be, or at least to appear to be, a serious professional, and making “petty” complaints about what name people use doesn’t help with that image. So I’m working on different tones for telling people to use my name. Note the repeated use of the words “just” and “a bit”.
One I personally hate, especially when a man does it, is where an e-mail addressed to two or more women is begun “Dear ladies”. WTF? It happens to me a lot, because I work in a small, all-female team.
To the “Dear Ladies” e-mail, I respond to the actual content and then say something like: “PS One small thing I wanted to mention. It’s just that I personally don’t like to be addressed “Dear Ladies” – [although if you use my actual name that totally won't annoy me at all.] Thanks!” If asked to justify myself, then depending on the context I might say “I just personally find it a bit patronising” or “Have you seen Little Britain?“
People tend to get the message, although the last time I picked someone up on that, just the other week, the guy has never written me another e-mail to me – not even to say thanks for answering the question that he raised in the first place. Patronising and rude, all in one happy package.
The other one that ticks me off is where people start off a conversation using an over-familiar name, usually a shortened version of my name (which I do not like at all) or sometimes “love” (grrr!).
For these people, I generally interrupt them with something like: “Oh hang on, before you go any further, can I just ask you to call me [my name]” possibly followed up with “I know you didn’t mean anything by it but I get a bit annoyed when people call me X” or “I just feel a bit uncomfortable with being called X” or “I just prefer [my name]” depending on what kind of annoyed I am. I’ve never yet had to go so far as to say “Well, because it’s my name.” But I would if I had to: it’s the Big Gun.
There is one guy I deal with occasionally who randomly decided to start shortening my name, a couple of weeks ago – I explained in a friendly tone that I prefer to be called by my unshortened name, and then had to spend a good 2 minutes reassuring him that I wasn’t annoyed that he used the shortened name, that I understood that he wasn’t to know any better, that I just wanted to mention it so that in future he wouldn’t inadvertently annoy me before a conversation even begins, soothe, soothe – although, actually, where the hell does he get off thinking he can just mess about with my name, huh? So anyway he now pronounces it with great care every time I speak to him as if it is some huge effort of will just to use my actual name. Bear in mind also, that this guy is several levels below me in what passes for the management hierarchy so he hasn’t even got “superiority” to use as an excuse for being rude.
So anyway – gah! It may seem like a small thing, but this is just so rude. Where do people get off thinking they can (re-)name me against my will?
Oh dear, I got sidetracked. My third question was going to be something completely different but now I can’t even remember what. Instead, I started ranting and my “aside” turned into the whole rest of the post. Oh well.
21 February 2008
I would like to distance myself from women who use their children to demonstrate their own credibility as whatever it is that they want to be.
I would like to. Can I though?
Let’s warm up with the simple stuff. I have ostentatiously fed, changed and interacted in public with my daughter in ways that were self-consciously coloured by who was watching. Hey, look at me, I use cloth nappies! Look, a breastfeeding mummy! Oh, see, now this is how you get your child to behave beautifully in supermarkets, look, see how I do it! Watch me performing perfect motherhood, watch and learn! Give me cookies!
My child: the ultimate parenting accessory, a unique demonstration tool.
Oh, yes, those curls, well her daddy is black, you know. His family are from Jamaica. Yes, that does make me rather special and unique, fancy giving birth to a coloured child, how brave, how progressive, how very revolutionary. Where’s my cookie?
Have I done that? Of course I have. Maybe not often, maybe not in so many words: I have a more subtle approach. I also don’t actually use words like “coloured” – those are just the words I see in the eyes of white women and men when they learn that my child is not white. I do it because it makes me feel superior – more radical, more interesting, more colourful. I get the sudden urge to prove that I am one of the good guys. Right.
Maybe I get points for even recognising (a) that I do this and (b) that it is really, really not cool. Maybe there is mitigation in the fact that I have been actively refusing, on a conscious level at least, to take radical feminist credit for my non-white child, for refusing to make her into my fluffy blogosphere credibility poodle. Right.
Is there any point to this castigation? Will it be cleansing? I hope so. At least, it will be getting some of these maggots and worms out in the open, ready for processing.
I keep trying to write something measured, something that takes the personal out of the political, not entirely, but enough for me to feel that I am not using my little girl, that what I spew is safe for publication. It doesn’t work, it isn’t flowing, it gets tangled in this bottleneck of thought that makes me ache with love and regret.
Long before I was married, before I was pregnant, my ex told me during our (first) big breakup that he didn’t want to be in a long term relationship with a white woman, that it would be too complicated, and some other stuff that came completely out of the blue because it was the first time he had ever started or entered into a conversation about race in my presence, let alone with me. At the time it seemed purely an excuse to cover up the “real reason” for his rejection, even more so later when I discovered that he was at the time in what we might call an overlapping relationship – with a woman who I can only assume was not white. And although I still think there was a lot of that, the fact that it was the only possible explanation I had for this sudden sharing of his non-white perspective shows you how far up my own colourblind arse I had reached.
I used him as a trophy, too. He was my wonderful black boyfriend/husband. Not too black though, just black enough to be the forbidden exotic. He was just dark enough that being with him felt like breaking a taboo, like a rebellion against my racist upbringing. I’m not about to start feeling sorry for him, but I can at least start to sort through my own junk and come clean. Was his exciting but always unmentioned darkness the reason why I saw only his charms and never, not until too late, his faults? Why I saw what I wanted to be there and not what was actually there? He was charming, urbane, witty, bright, fun, reckless, knowledgeable, well-read, captivating. All those things. He was also selfish, self-centred. There was a wall around him, impenetrable. He was unmoving, unchanging, there was no sign of growth, exchange, development. He gave without taking, took without giving. He broke me. I broke myself, hurling my soul and my body up against that wall. Maybe I would have seen it coming if I wasn’t so pleased with myself about my wonderful black boyfriend.
No good guys here. Just mess.
But a few feet away from me, there is a good person, a clean person. She is sleeping, she knows none of this.
And if I don’t watch out she will see it. She will see her mummy playing the White Mother of Colour card, she will see me looking expectantly, watching for the cookie, just for being her mother. So I need to sweep this childish need for validation and praise away fast. And I need to be ready to acknowledge the maggoty brain-worms and to let her know where they came from. To let her know that I am not playing games with her.
I don’t regret her. Obviously.
But I am becoming increasingly aware of how unmindfully she was created. We weren’t trying to have children – no way – she just came along, and although the whole idea was initially unwelcome we embraced it, we chose not to – I chose not to – abort* the pregnancy. We weren’t trying to have exotic little mixed race children either to coo over, or to brandish as revolutionary symbols, or to raise with intentionality and political consciousness. I had no race consciousness (I was colourblind in the worst sense. After all, if I could love a black man, I couldn’t be racist, right?) and my ex’s awareness of the racism he personally experienced never translated into a political position, an analysis or critique of race or white supremacy. It was just there. Somehow unposken. And in such circumstances, how could I mindfully choose to procreate with a black man, with that black man? I didn’t, and couldn’t have, even aside from the fact that my pregnancy and our parenthood was itself wholly unplanned.
[*This whole post but this paragraph in particular, that word in particular - it is hard to write because I can imagine her reading this blog one day - hi sweetheart - and seeing all this which I have kept down and hidden, kept away from her, until today. Writing about aborting her feels bad, even if all I'm saying was that this was a viable option that was not chosen. (I say viable option - it was never a real option with me, not this time - it was others who wanted that, not me. Not me, not this time.) Honey, even those in favour, they never talked about aborting you. We didn't even know you.]
That I conceived her unmindfully is bad enough.
That I birthed her unmindfully is bad enough.
That I have spent the last three years with her unmindfully is bad enough.
This is the day that it stops.
This is the day that I let the noise in, let it crowd around and try to strangle me if that is what it comes to do. This is the day that I start opening all those cans and looking for the source of my stinking issues, so I can pull them out and look at them and own them and strip them down and come out of it all as some kind of mother.
I want to be clean.
More than just feeling clean – I want to shake out the mess and be clean.
I don’t know if I can ever be clean.
This is the day that it starts.
20 February 2008
Posted by Maia under Cunts!
Following up on my previous post, Bleeding Over Africa, about campaigns to distribute disposable menstrual products for African girls and women, I wanted to flag up a site which is running a more sustainable campaign.
Goods 4 Girls are seeking donations of (new!) cloth pads, either home made or bought specially, for a project distributing these in conjunction with aid organisations who can ensure that they are used to best effect.
There are links to patterns if you feel up to making your own.
Edited to add: the campaign runs out of Seattle. If you live in the UK, making them and shipping them to the US for onward shipping to Africa may not be the best plan. You can still buy them via the internet and have them delivered direct to the Seattle address. :)
(Via amygeekgrl @ blogher)
I can’t personally vouch for them, obviously, but this seems like a far better effort than the idea of sending out disposable pads.
Check it out!
18 February 2008
I have been sorting out some pictures today, trying to print some* to send to my sister-in-law. I’ve written her a letter too, and re-reading her letters to me has made me look at these pictures of Ariel that I have printed with a different eye.
[* I'm actually very pleased with the prints - the first time I've tried to do proper photo printing at home on glossy paper - they are almost like "real" photos, with the advantage that you can select and edit before you print - I'm happy :) ]
Let me backtrack a little.
Before, when my sister-in-law would write to me I would have trouble reading her notes and letters. Trouble because it made me think too much of her brother, and all that sad jazz. So much so that I didn’t take much in, and rarely even wrote back, and when I did it was light and superficial, small talk, a duty letter. My bad. Anyway, I feel ready for it now, ready to face his family if not him, especially as she is not aligned with him (and never has been in fact) in the whole situation between us all, especially in my growing realisation that I must not leave it too late to give Ariel a real shot at knowing that side of her family, of her heritage. I feel so grateful at how hard my sister-in-law has worked at maintaining the link, and sorry to have evaded the relationship for so long. I had reasons, but still it was not the right thing to do. And all this is why I’ve re-read some of her older letters, remembering her words before I set down my own.
In a couple of her letters my sister-in-law talks about how her daughter is very light-skinned (the father is white) and looks almost white, rather like Ariel does.
From my perspective as a white mother, I saw the light skin, on some level, as a practical convenience in that Ariel would be able to partake of white/light privilege, and I wouldn’t get pegged as a “race traitor”, as some white mothers of non-white children seem to feel they are… I mean, I recognise the fact that her lightness is a complicating factor in many ways, allowing me (and others) to erase her heritage if we aren’t careful, for one thing. But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that the accessibility of white/light privilege didn’t strike me, selfishly, as something that would be a benefit, albeit undeserved, for Ariel personally.
My sister in law, as a black mother of a light child, has a completely different take. She says that sometimes people do not think her daughter belongs to her (I remember my mother-in-law once saying something similar about her son who was very light, even blue-eyed, as a baby – they thought she was his babysitter). She says that his white family feel entitled to take control and custody, which she thinks is intimately connected with my niece’s lightness. She worries that this same beloved daughter, privileged for her lightness, might in the future be ashamed of her darker mother.
Thinking on this, I look at the pictures I have printed and all I see is lightness. The blue-grey eyes. The lightish brown hair: a little sun-bleached in the summer pictures, in one beach snapshot it is almost a golden halo. The very light skin. Her father is in her slightly broad nose, her slightly full lips and, just a little, in her brown curls which are a mixture of my dead straight fairness and his kinky black.
Nobody will think that I am the wrong mother for this light child.
I will send her the pictures anyway, and I will wonder what she makes of Ariel’s lightness and of her privilege.
My sister in law seems hesitant about these comments she makes. She no doubt wonders how I would react to her talking of race and racism. In another note she apologises for “going on” about race and her daughter’s white family; and acknowledges that white mothers have their troubles too. She worries what I will think, yet she speaks her truth anyway. I’m glad.
My ex-husband always discouraged any friendship between me and his sister, successfully since he managed to keep me away from her (and indeed his family in general) and was always the gatekeeper on those occasions when we did meet. They don’t get on so well. I know her more from letters than from real life. Isn’t that sad? Yes, it is. I am touched by the honesty and clarity of her words, I am touched by her directness, by her unwillingness to pretend that everything is fine. Her brother called her complaining and manipulative – the things that men always say when a woman will not fall into line. Although I have long suspected his – objectivity? that’s a nice bland way to put it – it is only now that I’ve truly stopped believing him and started to hope that there can be something good to dig out of it all, some hope of salvaging a positive relationship for Ariel with his family that does not have to include him.
16 February 2008
16 February 2008
This article in the TES discusses the phenomenon of Playboy branded goods that are aimed at children and brought into schools as stationery or clothing / accessories to be used or worn in the classroom.
The writer agonises over how this thorny issue should be dealt with. Do we ignore it because it is too hard to deal with? Or do we bin the bunny?
A local headteacher told me: “We can’t address the issue because the whole problem with it is that it creates an association between children and an entirely adult phenomenon. It is hard to explain things to children without exposing them to what we are trying to protect them from.”
It will surprise no-one that my preferred solution is – bin the damn bunny. Merchandise that is associated with the porn industry is not suitable for children to be using or playing with or wearing. And even if their parents can turn a blind eye and go along with the “oh what a cute bunny” story, the school does not have to.
Schools in the UK have banned Harry Potter; braided hair; the song “Imagine”; Christmas cards; Pokemon – remember that? I do…; and (nearly) chips. To name but a few. How much more sensible would it be for a primary school to ban porn-branded merchandise?
As for the explaining, well that isn’t hard.
You write a note to parents – schools are good at writing notes to parents – and you say that exposing children to pornography brands is not appropriate, and then request that they do not allow their children to bring Playboy items to school.
And if your school is too wet for that, you can always try explaining it to the children. Contrary to the suggestion in the article, it is surely NOT hard to do this in a way that avoids “exposing” children to sex or pornography.
You don’t have to show someone pornography in order to explain that it is Not Cool. And, if you are dealing with pre-sex-ed* children where even mentioning sex is tricky, you don’t even have to do that either!
[* Note, come the revolution, when I rule the world, there will be no such thing. Sex education starts early in our house.]
For example, when a little girl asks you with furrowed brow: “Is Playboy rude?” you could just say “Yes, it is.” If pressed further you say that Playboy is a company that makes pictures and films which many people think are Not Cool even for grownups, never mind for children (a bit like smoking). If pressed to explain why these pictures and films are Not Cool, you explain that they show people doing adults things and they are often shown acting in ways that are not very realistic and not very loving or respectful, which is something that many people find upsetting and confusing.
14 February 2008
I had lunch with a (male, single) friend today. He mentioned that it was Valentine’s Day. Yes, so I hear. We compared plans – which is to say, neither of us had any. I mentioned that I have a slightly cynical attitude to the whole sleazy commercialised hetfest. (Although I didn’t put it quite like that.) He was sceptical. Surely if you had a bloke, and he said that to you, there would be trouble. I shrugged. I’ve learned not to get into conversations that start “if you had a bloke”.
Ariel made me a card though, and some heart-shaped biscuits. It says Love From [Ariel] inside, she announced. Because I Love You. I love her too. And I don’t need this monstrosity of a “holiday” to remind me of that, or to remind me to tell her about it.
We live our love. We don’t need to buy it.
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